Bhuvneshwar Kumar surprised and delighted with match-winning fifty
The 27-year-old praised Dhoni's support and words of wisdom during their match-winning partnership.
What's the story?
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, India's unexpected match-winner in the second ODI against Sri Lanka on Thursday, said that he surprised himself with his knock as he felt that it was impossible for him to score a half-century, that too a match-winning one, in ODI cricket.
Coming into bat with India reeling at 131/7, Bhuvneshwar, along with MS Dhoni, forged a brilliant partnership to help Virat Kohli's side take a 2-0 lead in the five-match series.
The 27-year-old, who remained unbeaten on 53 as India won by 3 wickets, said that the situation he found himself in was ideal as he had a lot of overs to settle in before playing his shots.
“I never thought in my dreams that I would score a fifty in one-dayers. Not a fifty, but a match-winning knock because one-day cricket doesn’t suit my batting because I am not kind of batsman who can hit big sixes,” said Bhuvneshwar after the game.
“But that kind of situation was perfect for me because it was totally a Test match situation. When I went in, MS said the same thing… “play the way you play in Test matches”. I didn’t want to do anything different. I just wanted to play all those overs."
Chasing the D/L revised target of 231 from 47 overs, India were cruising to victory at one point after Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan shared a 108-run stand for the opening wicket.
However, Akila Dananjaya's dream spell of six wickets turned the match on its head and it seemed the hosts would equalise the series having lost the opening ODI at Dambulla. However, India had other plans as a calm and composed MS Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar led India to victory.
The heart of the matter
Bhuvneshwar was particularly impressive in the way he managed to keep out Dananjaya when he was on a roll in his opening spell which saw him pick up six wickets.
The Meerut-born pacer admitted that he did find it difficult to read the Sri Lankan off-spinner initially, but added that he was able to read the variations from his hand the more he faced him.
Having overs in hand made his job a lot easier and Bhuvneshwar was full of praise for Dhoni's conviction from the other end as the former Indian skipper allowed the less-accomplished batsman to take the lead in the partnership.
The Indian No. 9 eventually overtook Dhoni as he played his shots towards the end but he added that the initial bit of the partnership was hard as it involved a lot of running between the wickets.
The thrilling contest at Pallekele on Thursday breathed life into a series which had all the billing of a one-sided following the way India whitewashed Sri Lanka 3-0 in the Test series followed by the victory in the 1st ODI at Dambulla.
India will aim to seal the ODI series with a victory on Sunday, again at Pallekele, before the final two ODIs which will be played at Dambulla.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has endured a tough time in Sri Lanka overall as he didn't feature in the Test series despite being part of the 15-man squad.
But he has served a timely reminder to skipper Virat Kohli about his qualities, not just with the bowl, but with the bat as well, with his knock on Thursday.
The way he took on the responsibility despite the much-accomplished Dhoni batting at the other end, was commendable, and he showed immense maturity in the way he went about the run chase is something which will give Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri, immense delight.